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Monday, January 27, 2014
When is 'right time' to extend Yu Darvish?

By Richard Durrett

Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish finished second in AL Cy Young voting last season.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- We've seen some big-time contracts given out to pitchers this offseason. Clayton Kershaw, fresh off his second NL Cy Young Award, agreed to a seven-year, $215 million deal, the richest ever handed out for a pitcher. Yes, that's a stout $30.7 million on average per year.

Heck, Masahiro Tanaka, who has not thrown a pitch in the majors and isn't considered by most scouts to be as good as Yu Darvish, was handed a seven-year, $155 million deal by the New York Yankees, who then paid his Japanese team another $20 million.

Both contracts, along with a host of others, make Darvish look like a huge bargain at six years and $56 million guaranteed. The Rangers, of course, invested another $51.7 million in a posting bid (and could give Darvish another $4 million if he's healthy in the final years of the deal). But the posting fee went to Darvish's team. Darvish could end up with 99 million fewer dollars in his pocket than Tanaka. That's incredible.

The Rangers hope Darvish uses that as motivation to continue to be one of the top pitchers in the league and, subsequently, end up making top dollar because of it.

All this contract talk brings up the inevitable question: When should the Rangers start talking contract extension with Darvish?

As it stands now, he's due to make a base salary of $10 million in each of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. He would make $11 million in 2017, the final year of the deal. But that last season can become a player-option year if Darvish wins the Cy Young in the next three seasons or finishes in the top four of the Cy Young balloting in two of the next three seasons. You'd have to think that if Darvish stays healthy, the Rangers are looking at three more seasons under this current contract.

General manager Jon Daniels said this weekend that the club isn't in any rush to do something yet.

"At some point, we'll sit down and talk with him just like we would on everybody," Daniels said. "He still has four years on his deal. I don't see a rush necessarily, but we'll address it at the right time.

"Right now, I'm focused on getting him in camp, getting him ready to make 33 starts this year."

You can read more about that here.

Remember: It takes two sides to want to make a deal. And if you're Darvish, wouldn't you be tempted to see how you do this year after you were runner-up in the Cy Young last year despite not getting consistent run support? The Rangers have bolstered the lineup and Darvish has shown an ability to pitch for an entire season with success. Imagine the contract if he goes out and wins the Cy Young.

The Rangers, on the other hand, have already spent well past the original budget for 2014 and will be in better position when the TV deal money kicks in for 2015. They know it's going to cost them big bucks even right now to extend Darvish. So they appear content to sit back and see how he does in his third season in the big leagues.

There's a delicate balance there for both sides. If Darvish wants the security of knowing that he'll make a nice raise now and have that in hand in case an injury occurs, then you're willing to sign now. But if you bet on yourself, even for one more season, it could pay huge dividends in the future. The Rangers, meanwhile, know that if you invest that much money, you have to feel like the pitcher will be durable. Darvish received an injection in his back and by all indications is fully healthy and ready to go. But the club could see how Darvish holds up in 2014 and even at the end of the season, he'll be 28 years old and would still have good prime years left to rip up the current deal and sign a new one. Of course, if Darvish adds a Cy Young Award to his trophy case, the price will have gone up considerably.

It's certainly something to watch. But I can understand both sides if they wanted to wait one more season before those discussions really heat up. After 2014, Darvish would have at least two years left on the current contract. That might be a good time for both sides to figure out something to keep Darvish in Texas long-term. In the meantime, the Rangers want Darvish to be in position to void that final 2017 year of the deal. It would mean he's continuing to live up to all the lofty expectations and that he's likely helping his team to the playoffs.

When would you extend Darvish? And where do you think he'll fall in line with the contracts out there? A few of the highest total value contracts for pitchers right now (thanks to Cot's Contracts):

Clayton Kershaw ($215 million; deal through 2020)
Justin Verlander ($180 million; deal through 2019)
Felix Hernandez ($175 million; deal through 2019)
CC Sabathia ($161 million; deal through 2015)
Masahiro Tanaka ($155 million; deal through 2020)
Zack Greinke ($144 million; deal through 2018)